Marina Peralta stared out the passenger-side front window of her mother’s Infiniti SUV as it pulled into the driveway of a canary yellow A-frame where her best friend, Fernanda Fuego, lived. Between the wild mix of luscious flowers in the front yard and the bright colors trimming the house, it seemed like the Fuego family used nearly every color Crayola ever invented to decorate. Marina looked longingly at the powder blue and white house next door, with its relatively boring agapanthus-filled garden. She remembered how she used to peer out its upstairs window at the eclectic neighborhood.
“I miss living here sometimes,” Marina said wistfully. She twirled the ends of her long brown hair and stared reflectively at the porch swing where she and Fern had gobbled down ice cream cones nearly every summer night.
“How could you miss living in the barrio?” Marina’s mother asked as she lay on the horn, causing Marina to flinch. “I worked hard to get us out of this neighborhood, and I don’t want you spending any more time here than you have to.”
Five years ago, Marina’s mother, Rebecca, had become an instant success as a real estate agent. She uprooted the family, consisting of Marina; her younger sisters, Monica and Samantha; and their stepfather, Steve Michelson, to an upper-middle-class section of Orange Olive at the base of the prestigious Peralta Hills. For the most part, Marina liked her new neighborhood—every yard was immaculate, there was a pool in her backyard, and a gorgeous gate marked the entrance of the subdivision—but it was also kind of sterile and a little too perfect. She missed the cozy feel of her old neighborhood.
Marina twiddled the drawstrings of her khaki miniskirt and frowned at the seagull appliqué on her Hollister tank top to keep from saying anything. She didn’t dare give the answer she wanted to give. The retort at the tip of her tongue would have started an argument, at that moment, Fernanda came bounding out of her house.
“I’m ready!” Fernanda called as she ran down the bright red porch steps and across the lawn. Her curly shoulder-length auburn hair flopped playfully over her Plimsouls T-shirt, a tribute to her love of 1980s psychedelic and punk bands. She opened the car door, held on to her paisley wraparound skirt, and slid into the backseat. Immediately she kicked off her Birkenstock sandals. “Hey, Marina. Good afternoon, Mrs. Peralta.”
“Hey, Fern. We’ve got to pick up something before we go to my house,” Marina said.
“What do you need to pick up?” Fern asked, leaning forward from the backseat.
Marina twisted around and tugged one of Fern’s untamed ringlets. “A chart.”
Fern swatted her hand away and Marina chuckled under her breath before settling back into her seat. She had started pulling Fern’s tangle of corkscrew, cinnamon-colored curls when they were in grade school. It was the one thing Marina could do to get talkative Fern to shut up. Now that they were both fifteen, Marina just did it to annoy her.
“What kind of chart?” Fern asked.
“An astrological chart,” Marina’s mother answered as they cruised down the streets of Orange County, California, looking for a specialty store among the historic brick storefronts. “And I need you to run in and get it for me, Marina.”
“Mom!” Marina protested.
“I need to pick up the special invitation paper for your Grandpy’s birthday party, and this will save me time,” Marina’s mother said.
Marina glared out the window, frustration clouding her big brown eyes. She hated it when her mom sent her on errands, especially when it came to goofy ones like fetching an astrology chart. What if she said something stupid and embarrassed herself? Marina twisted her hair at the nape of her neck and got one of her many silver rings caught in a knot of her unbrushed mane. Impervious to the pain, she yanked her finger free along with several long light brown strands.
“It makes me so mad every time I pass through here,” Marina’s mother said suddenly as she navigated a roundabout known as the Orange Circle. At the center was a circular park with a fountain, benches, and tall cypress trees. The Orange Circle was intersected by two streets, Glassell and Chapman.
“Not again,” Marina moaned. She had heard her mother’s rant about their family’s glory days way too often. Her mother took every possible opportunity to gloat about being Spanish and yet despised anything that connected her to Mexican roots, especially the barrio. Marina didn’t quite understand the difference.
Marina’s mother ignored her daughter and looked in the rearview mirror at Fern. “Our Spanish ancestors, José Antonio Yorba and Juan Pablo Peralta, built a very successful ranching business with the land grant they received from the king of Spain.”
“Over two hundred years ago,” Marina grumbled.
“They lost all of it when California became a state,” Marina’s mother continued. “Then those damn gringo lawyers Chapman and Glassell stole our land.”
“Here we are,” Marina said in a forced lighthearted tone, pointing at a store with floor-to-ceiling windows and a large wooden sign with the words moonlight midwifery painted in dark blue calligraphy next to a crescent moon.
Marina’s mother pulled into a space in front of the shop.
“Oooh, look at the crystals hanging from the trees! Come on, let’s go.” Fern was chomping at the bit. She dug her toes into her Birks and opened the car door.
Marina groaned softly. While she adored Fern’s wild and unpredictable nature, Fern often got the two of them into trouble that Marina had to bail them out of with a combination of cleverness and false bravado. Marina liked adventures, too, as long as her mother didn’t find out about them.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Rogelia's House of Magic by Jamie Martinez Wood. Copyright © 2008 by Jamie Martinez Wood. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.